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Sen. Kessler Becomes Acting W.Va. Senate President

By Staff | Jan 19, 2011

Acting Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, listens to Sen. Evan Jenkins’ views on Senate rules of naming an acting senate president, Jan. 12, during the first day of the 80th term of the West Virginia Legislative session.

West Virginia’s Senator Jeff Kessler, representing the Second District which includes Wetzel County, is now acting president of the West Virginia Senate, a move that required a rule change by senators Jan. 12.

After 90 minutes of debate, Senate members voted 21-12 on the first day of the 80th session of the Legislature to create the position of acting president in the Senate. Members next voted 30-3 to re-elect Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan–a move that allows Tomblin to continue serving as acting governor.

Kessler, a Democrat, then was tapped by voice vote to serve as acting president.

“As I look above me and see the clock, it is always moving forward,” Kessler said immediately after taking the gavel. “It doesn’t work right if we are moving backward.”

He noted there had been some “boisterous and cantankerous” discussion regarding establishment of the Senate president’s position and said members now have to move past this.

“The time to govern is now,” he told the senators. “We have the opportunity not just to do good things, but great things. . . It will require great effort by each of us to reach out across the aisle and to put the differences and bickering that divided us behind us.

“While acting president, my tenure won’t be governed by the title on the podium. It will be governed by the acts we pass. And that’s what people will remember.” He termed each of the Senate members “competent, able leaders.

And Kessler–who now has control of committee assignments in the Senate–has placed his Northern Panhandle colleagues in leadership positions.

–Sen. Orphy Klempa, D-Ohio, will serve as vice chairman of the Senate Roads, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as well as vice chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee.

–Sen. Jack Yost, D-Brooke, will chair the Senate Labor Committee under Kessler and serve as vice chairman of the Senate Military Committee.

–Sen. Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel, who previously served as majority whip in the Senate, is now Kessler’s chairman of confirmation.

“That position appoints everybody to every board,” Kessler said. “It’s a very powerful position to make sure you pick the right folks in terms of consulting.”

Klempa, Yost, and Edgell all voted in favor of having an acting Senate president. They and Kessler also voted for Tomblin to remain Senate president and acting governor.

In assuming the position of acting Senate president, Kessler gives up his post as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to which he assigned Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha.